Transfer case grind in 4WD

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Jan 19, 2015
I've posted this thread elsewhere, and now I'm looking for help here at Thanks in advance for your help!

1999 4Runner Limited with the Multi-mode transfer case. Haven't had any issues with it until a few weeks ago. Noticed the problem after a slow-speed spin off into a flat ditch, while in 2wd on an icy snow-covered back road. We drove out of the ditch no problem. The next time I tried to engage AWD (4hi unlocked), I got the awful grinding you hear in the video below:

I've tried AWD/4WD several times since then, with the same result. Transfer case gear oil was very silver when drained and re-filled 2 weeks ago.

Could the front diff be "locked up" somehow, causing the front driveshaft to stop and cause the sound? Or, does this seem more like a transfer actuator that isn't fully engaging?

The dash lights work as expected...they come on solid when in AWD or 4WD, and they turn off quickly when put back in 2WD.

Any thoughts or ideas are welcome. Truck has 194K miles. Just time for a new transfer case? Just a coincidence that this happened right after a little backwards slide into a ditch?

At 236K miles on my 01 4Runner my transfer case is fine so I doubt age or miles is the problem.
Yup, I seem to have stumped the normal T4R guys. No clear answers. I agree that these t-cases tend to be it's hard to believe it's just worn out, especially given it's relatively easy life. I'm actually more suspect of the front diff, but I can't understand how it would cause the noise in the t-case.

3jvj - where are you going with your suggestion? The t-case actuator and the front diff (ADD) are both vacuum assisted, so I'm not sure how far that would get me. But, I'll try anything at this point.

I would try pulling the front driveshaft and then shift into 4wd and see what happens. If it truly is the t-case it will exhibit still. If it is the front diff then you shouldn't hear anything. Pulling the shaft won't affect everything else doing their things so the front will still lock in the long shaft and the case will do its thing so you should be able to isolate and go from there.

And with the shaft removed if it is the front diff any noise should be less likely to transfer up into the cab.

Have you drained the front diff to see what you get from that as well?

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